Digital learning involves the utilization of all forms of technologies or electronic media to aid the educational process. It stands as a great tool for instructors to update course materials systematically and upload them to the platform for their students to access; for learners, a great deal of flexibility to study anytime and from any place at their own pace without worrying about timetables and schedules; and for schools’ administration, significantly helping to lower operational costs and improved management of educational activities.
It is evident that digital learning in higher institutions in Nigeria will significantly reduce the rate of unsolicited disruptions in academic activities and ensure improved access and quality of education, and, overall, reduce the digital knowledge gap, however, institutions would have to consider some challenges that come with its adoption in our society and think ahead on solutions that can be implemented to empower the process.
Let’s consider some challenges and what it would mean for the key stakeholders; Administrators, Lecturers, and Students.
1. Making The Choice
The success of adopting digital learning in higher institutions also depends on the choice of a Learning Management System (LMS) and tools. Administrators are mostly tasked with the responsibility of making this choice amongst many others.
Many institutions have tried various forms of e-learning during the lockdown which have mostly been exercised via platforms like Zoom, emails, and WhatsApp. Do you think these platforms are good enough for lecturers and students to keep up with the tedious requirements?
It is not just about choosing an LMS, but choosing the right system that would be easy-to-use, provides sound data analytics to track and monitor progress, and also flexible enough to manage the administration and learning processes unique to your school’s system.
Before you explore, you must have a clear idea of the expectations of stakeholders at the end of every teaching and learning session, and that is your ultimate goal. (Rohan T., 2017). Instead of working with assumptions, run a survey amongst your students and lecturers to understand their needs and expectations. Involving them in the decision-making process would improve their willingness to adopt the LMS of your choosing.
2. Cost of training
As the realities of the pandemic set in, many schools across the country immediately swung into increasing school fees charges and sending online learning charges to parents directly. Considering the current economic situation, it came as a shocker for a lot of students and their parents. However, it is understandable, as school administration would still need to fund the teaching and learning process, which includes paying teachers/lecturers.
To make this easier for your students, choose the right pricing model and payment duration. The models that exist are Pay-per-leaner, Pay-per-active-user, Pay-as-you-go, License fee/subscription, and Open source (free). Choose or negotiate for the right pricing model that would suit your institutional goals and the expectation from stakeholders.
Also, consider the most comfortable payment duration for your institution, which could either be monthly, yearly or possibly per session. Ensure that whatever choices you make provides a subsidized payment mechanism for your students and still meets their needs.
3. Poor Technical Infrastructure
This comprises the biggest challenges every stakeholder consistently ponders on; erratic power supply, poor internet services, and access to technology. How can students and lecturers adopt digital learning if there is no access to digital learning facilities in the first place? If there’s no reliable power supply, how can digital systems function? If they don’t have access to a fast internet connection, how can learning carry through? These make it impossible for stakeholders to enjoy the ease that digital learning constitutes.
The cost of internet services today in Nigeria is still on the high side, and the issue of affordability lies mainly between the Lecturers and Students. It is high time institutions looked into partnerships with telecommunications companies to offer cheaper data services for them on and off-campus. For instance, an institution can provide 50 to 100MB weekly to every student and lecturer to enable them to upload and access learning materials.
For access to digital facilities, Institutions would need to look into providing tablets, laptops or desktop computers that would enable effective teaching and uploading of course materials.
Even for a generation of digital natives, not every student has the same access to technology or the recent models of laptops or desktop computers. Institutions would need to look into setting up ICT centres with reliable internet services and electricity supply
Administrators on their path can make this easy by choosing an LMS that is mobile friendly and has an easy-to-navigate portal. Most importantly, choosing an LMS that operates seamlessly with limited data, to enable students to access course materials offline.
4. Attitude to E-learning
On the other end of the spectrum is the personal reluctance of students and lecturers to adopt digital technology. It might seem like an unfathomable concept, but some surveys conducted in the past have shown just how true this is.
A lot of the lecturers in many institutions have not transitioned fully into the digital age we now enjoy. This lack of web and IT skills stands as a bottleneck as users are unable to navigate an LMS platform, upload and manage course materials and sessions and validate learning.
Students must manage their time effectively and develop communication and technological skills, and to achieve this they have to be self-motivated, exhibit commitment and accept the flexibility that goes with online engagements (Josephine L., Kwasi S. & Benjamin K 2020).
Institutions would need to organize training for all stakeholders to enable them to utilize e-learning facilities. This would also be supported by deliberately assigning dedicated offices to student guidance and counselling support and IT support. The importance of involving the stakeholders in the decision-making process cannot be overemphasized, as this would really address the “fear of change” that might arise due to adjusting into a new normal.
Education plays a significant role in driving major economic change in society and achieving most of our SDGs goals as a country which is why there is a need for institutions, professional bodies, government, private sector, and as many stakeholders as possible to give careful attention to these problems and provide solutions to facilitate meaningful development in the educational sector.
The good thing is, learning management systems like Softcom Learn can alleviate some challenges we have highlighted above. With its offline capabilities and seamless course and content feature, it stands as a solution that many institutions should take advantage of.
It understands the importance of validating impacted knowledge and enables regular assessment and feedback features so you can track learner’s input and understanding of concepts. You can also facilitate collaborative sessions between students and lecturers with the forum feature, and much more.
If you would like your institution to get started with a learning management platform, do it with us.